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MERCEDES-BENZ AMG A45 S 4MATIC+

If one were to be on the market for a fast hot hatch, they would be spoilt for choice. However, should they desire to narrow the search with words like ‘the fastest hot-hatch money can buy’ into the mix, that list would narrow considerably. Among the survivors on that list of pocket rockets, one would undoubtedly find the Mercedes-Benz AMG A45 S. Having loved the previous iterations of the A45, I jumped at an opportunity to live with the new hatch for a week, and these were my impressions.

The visual changes to the Mercedes-AMG A45 s 4Matic+ are so modest that they would make the little car a prime candidate for those “spot the difference” puzzle games we used to find in magazines back in the day. Perhaps I betray my age with that comment, but I digress. A new lighting signature for the front and rear lights distinguishes the latest model from the pre-facelift. Keener eyes would also note the AMG badge that replaces the Mercedes-Benz star on the bonnet and the redesigned rear diffuser, which adds some theatre to the looks. Apart from that, the A45 is very similar to the older car – still a gorgeous piece of work from any angle, benefiting from the aero kit, which comes with canards for the front bumper and a fixed rear wing. 19” alloys wrapped in sticky Michelin Pilot Sport rubber add visual appeal. 

WELCOME INTERIOR UPDATES

Step into the cabin, and you will be treated to more welcome changes. Having experienced the new Mercedes-Benz dashboard layout found in newer Mercedes models, I was surprised that the A45 has stuck with the older horizontal twin-screen setup seen in years before. 

Despite looking the same, Mercedes-Benz updated the infotainment system, which now features the latest MBUX operating system. It was a joy to use, and I hardly yearned for the new infotainment screen found in the new Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The car also comes with the new AMG steering wheel, which has yet to be without its fair share of controversy. While the wheel updates the cabin and feels good in the hand, I have fewer kind words for the touch-sensitive buttons, which do not always capture my commands on the first try. The cabin also benefits from AMG bucket seats, which look the part and are mighty supportive without compromising much comfort. The rest of the cabin is a standard Mercedes-Benz affair, which looks and feels premium, although some plastics have an air of cheapness around them. 

DRIVING IMPRESSIONS

The beating heart of the A45 S is AMG’s award-winning turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol four-pot, which produces 310 kW and 500 Nm. The engine is mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, which delivers power to the 4Matic+ system. Mercedes-Benz claims this setup is suitable for a zero to 100 km/h sprint in 3.9 seconds and a 270 km/h top speed. As impressive as these specs are on paper, they were even more impressive in execution, as I soon discovered.

Using the little hatch as my daily car not only scratched my itch for speed, but also helped me assess how good the car is for daily commuting. In this department, it is a mixed affair. On the one hand, the A45 has a light steering system, which makes it easy to manoeuvre around town and in tight spaces. The body is relatively small, so parking was easy, and rush-hour traffic was not much of a concern. With the driver mode set to comfort, the throttle response is dialled back a bit so that it feels as natural to drive slowly as it would in a basic A-Class. 

On the other hand, AMG may have gotten a bit overzealous with the suspension system, which remained uncomfortably stiff even in the Comfort setting. You find yourself avoiding nooks and crevices you see on the road as the suspension is more than eager to rattle your spine with every road imperfection.

Once you are out of the city and have found a nice, twisty bit of road, you will soon forgive the hard ride. You will appreciate how level the car remains around corners with virtually no body roll. Through the drive modes (on the steering wheel), you can adjust the engine and exhaust settings to their most aggressive for the full-fat AMG experience you paid a premium for. 

A hard press of the accelerator shoves you into the seat as the compact performer propels itself with exhilarating intensity towards the next corner. The brakes are (thankfully) excellent and responsive, inspiring you to brake late into a corner, where the well-sorted steering allowed for swift carving into the apex as if I were Sir Hamilton himself. Once a corner has been dealt with, the 4Matic+ system delivers power with little loss of traction, and with a slight rear bias, understeer is of little concern. 

LAST WORD

The A45 S is a lovely driving machine which delivers more performance than you can ever use on a public road. It handles the split personality test well, providing a near-normal daily driving experience when needed and turning into a snarling monster at the turn of a dial.

Report by BRYAN KAYAVHU | Images © MERCEDES-BENZ SOUTH AFRICA

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